Back in 1979, Roger Evans famously sang about the Cockerel crying at White Hart Lane when the Swans scored their 3rd goal against Ardiles and company. Wind the clock forward 33 years and a 2,900 strong army of Jacks descended on Tottenham’s famous north London ground hoping for a repeat result of that historic night.
The Swans, buoyed by 4 victories from their last 6 Premier League away outings were up against a Spurs side whom hadn’t won in the last six and you can see why so many Swansea fans travelled with such great expectation, rather than hope.
Having enjoyed the relative comfort of Great Western’s train services on my last trip to London to watch the Swans against Fulham, it would have been rude not to indulge this time around – especially at just £36.50 return.
Now I’m no train-spotter, but here’s a tip that regular rail travellers might appreciate. When I bought the rail tickets to London Paddington for myself (and 3 Cardiff based companions), I actually found it cheaper to get all 4 tickets from Swansea as opposed to getting 1 from Swansea and 3 from Cardiff. So for you Cardiff based Swansea fans – of which there are a growing number I know (especially from the valleys) – you might want to keep that tip in mind.
Catching the 09:21 out of Swansea, the train was packed with other Swansea fans – although they weren’t anywhere near as boisterous as per the previous bunch that went to Fulham, well not at this stage anyway. I suspect it was because half of them were still hungover from the previous evenings festivities.
Upon arriving in Cardiff central, I was joined by my company for the day – Director Jack (fast becoming a Premier League away day veteran), Foreskinless Jack (AKA Rob the Yid) and Gooner Jack (An Arsenal/Swansea hybrid fan). They had a comical tale to tell about a 5 year old (based on his size!) lad on the platform whom informed his Dad that “we can’t get on that train Dad, its full of Jacks”. Guess who came to sit in our carriage 🙂
The vast majority of the journey to London Paddington was taken up debating which was the best route to get to White Hart Lane in light of the rather bloody inconvenient underground closures – in particular the Victoria line. These ‘debates’ also meant that Director Jack’s iphone endured a painful battery death.
After queueing to get our underground tickets and changing our route (again) we decided to take the Circle Line to Liverpool Street Station and catch the overground train to – yes you’ve guessed it – White Hart Lane station, which is a mere 5 minute walk from said ground.
One thing was clear upon our arrival in this part of north London, it ain’t pretty and the remnants of several burnt out buildings and shops – living evidence of the Tottenham riots – did little to impress us as visitors to the area.
In fact the whole area and the outside of the ground itself was without a word of a lie, bland and uninspiring. There wasn’t – as far as I could see – any signage whatsoever outside the ground stating who or what team played there, not even a club badge. I found this incredible, especially for a club of Spurs stature.
No this isn’t the back of the JT Morgans (as was) store in Swansea, it’s the outside of the East Stand at White Hart Lane – the stand which the gold cockerel proudly sits on top of.
Other than the stand names, this is about as explicit as the signage got. We could easily have been at Highbury for all we knew (hahaha).
Having taken in the outside of the ground, admired the official Spurs shops – based in demountable storage units – and fumed at what a let down it had been, our spirits picked up considerably when we noticed an eatery – just short of Michelin standards – directly opposite the away end (the south stand) of White Hart Lane.
Surely such a venue was a good omen for what lay ahead? Deciding to take our pre-match custom elsewhere – due to wanting to see the end of the Newcastle v Liverpool game, we strolled along Tottenham High Road in search of a pub.
We opted for the less crowded wine bar called ‘The Blue Bar 675’. And no it wasn’t that sort of bar! It was very relaxed – even allowing Direct Jack to take his cholesterol burger into the premises – and they seemed more interested in mocking Liverpool’s demise at Newcastle, than the 4 Jacks in their gaff.
With kick-off fast approaching we decided to head off back to WHL and take our seats – hoping that the inside of the ground would provide a better experience than the outside had. Thankfully we weren’t to be disappointed and the view from the corner of the upper tier of the South Stand – where half the Jack Army were housed – was excellent.
The facilities inside the ground were great with ample room on the concourses and between the seats in the stand. In fact I suppose the only negative point could be considered the several flights of stairs to get up to the upper tier. Think of Newcastle’s away end and half the number of flights of stairs and you get the picture!
Any drinkers amongst the away fans were in for a shock too, as they didn’t sell alchohol during the half time interval – due to licensing laws – which as you can imagine caused some bewilderment.
In all of the 58 football grounds I have visited in the Premier and English Leagues to date, I’ve have never ever seen a UFO inside a stadium before – not even at Cardiff or Millwall (unless you class a seat or a coin a UFO?).
I doubt very much that you’d ever see SWP’s finest in one of these ‘things’!
The stewarding deserves a mention of its own and despite having reading numerous warnings of the stewarding at WHL being a tadge keen, I didn’t really expect to see them be so picky about the placement of flags and – for the first half at least – the constant nagging for fans to sit down (despite not obstructing anyone’s view from what I could see – pardon the pun).
In fact several of the people around me took exception to this treatment and felt that the stewards really did put the ‘cock’ in ‘cockerel’, but not in an animal farm kind of way you understand.
Thankfully this ‘hassle’ didn’t continue into the 2nd half of the game and everyone was left to enjoy the game rather than “debate” with the stewards. In fairness I could see both sides of the argument for/against standing but thankfully common sense prevailed, this time around.
And so onto the game itself and my rose tinted spectacled view of proceedings.
- Despite their recent run of poor form, Spurs started the game full of confidence with Gareth Bale the main tormentor and it took the Swans a little time to settle. But settle they did and as much as Spurs had their chances, the Swans were far from overawed;
- The manner in which Spurs took the lead was perhaps a little fortuitous, as Ashley Williams blocked a dangerous Bale cross destined for Adebayor, only for it to fall nicely in front of van der Vaart, whom had time to place his shot past the helpless Vorm;
- Moment’s later, the Rock almost put us level with his downward header rising just over the bar. Two foot nearer and it would have been 1 all;
- Scott Sinclair continues to confuse me and frustrate me in equal measure. After a poor start to the game he grew in stature and played well, but I still wish he’d hug the touchline more and attack the full backs, rather than cut inside half way down the opponents half. Football coaches reading this might like to explain this concept to me as I’m not a football tactician by any stretch of the imagination!
- Despite Spurs bossing the majority of the first half, they only had the 1 goal to show for their efforts at half time – mainly thanks to some resolute defending from Messrs Williams, Monk, Taylor, Rangel and of course Lord Vorm;
- A lot has and will no doubt be written about Monk’s and Rangel’s performances today, but in fairness to both, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of Premier League defenders would struggle with the form displayed by the pacy Bale and salmon like Adebayor. Remember that this is the same defensive duo that played (with strikers in their pockets) at the Fulham game and Rangel – in particular – has (IMO) been playing as well recently as he has for quite some time. Doubters will no doubt think I’ve lost the plot in saying that;
- Neil Taylor put in another strong performance and has been one of our most consistent players this season – a dark horse for player of the year in my opinion. It was also good to see the Rock back to his usual self after his recent illness and his presence was felt, if only in terms of his blocks and sliding tackles;
- The pick of our midfield was our very own little Britton, who once again showed his worth with a tenacious display in the middle of the park – against far more illustrious opponents;
- The opening 15 minutes of the 2nd half saw the Swans take the game to their hosts and only a world class save from Brad Friedel stopped the Iceman from adding to his goal tally. Thankfully shortly afterwards the away end went into meltdown as Siggi slotted the ball home to bring the Swans level. It was game on!
- Unfortunately, we didn’t kick on from our equaliser and Spurs took the spoils through our achilles heel – set pieces. The introduction of Nathan Dyer improved our attacking options, but it was all a little too late in the end;
- In reflection, despite Adebayor’s goals I thought the Spurs man of the match was Kaboul whom made several blocks and last gasp tackles to deny the Swans goal scoring opportunities – one in particular from Siggi when the Swans were only 2-1 down.
- The appearance of Mark Gower on the WHL pitch was a nice gesture from Brendan – aware no doubt that he hadn’t had the opportunity when he was a Spurs player. Little wonder then that Brendan commands so much respect from his players and staff;
- Andre Marriner seemed to incur the wrath of both sets of fans with some of his decisions, especially as both sides regularly got ‘stuck in’ – particularly in midfield. Personally, I have always found him to be one of the better referees in the Premier League, but perhaps what is lacking is an overall consistency in the way all games are refereed. Football is a physical game – you either allow it to be played that way or you don’t. I wish the authorities would decide which its going to be;
- The Jack Army. Well what can I say, they we loud, sang for the best part of 80 minutes and once again out-sang the home fans. The praise for our support on twitter and Spurs forums was gushing.
I suppose if I had to use one word to sum up the game it would be ‘clinical’, as that was the difference between the two sides. As much as the scoreline flattered Spurs, they were quite simply more clinical when presented with goal scoring opportunities and with the firepower they have at their disposal, I’d fully expect that.
Disappointed but far from dejected, our minds turned to the task of getting back to Paddington for our 19:37 train and witnessing the queues at White Hart Lane station we had little choice but to flag down a taxi in an effort to get us to the train on time. £25 and a tour of north London later (who needs an open top bus) and we arrived in Liverpool Street station, ready to catch the tube to Paddington.
Any thoughts I had of stocking up on food goodies in M&S quickly evaporated as we arrived in Paddington at approximately 19:30. Shortly after taking our seats it was announced that the train was delayed due to technical difficulties. I was now, not only hank marvin and tired but p*ssed off as well! The thought of having the bank busting buffet car food did little to improve my mood.
Thankfully the delay lasted only 20 minutes and we were soon on our way home, accompanied by more BTP officers than I’d ever seen on a late Sunday evening train before. The remainder of the journey home passed without incident – other than me fending off starvation but devouring a lemon muffin, large bag of Walkers crisps and 500ml of orange juice. I swear we could have used gas power to get us home from Bristol Parkway such was the combustion effect of my food intake.
After bidding farewell to my companions for the day in Cardiff central, I was home in our ugly, lovely town by 23:15 – tired but looking forward to the Good Friday visit of the Toon to the home of ‘Twin Town’.
So despite the Swans best efforts, sadly I didn’t get to hear the cockerel cry but I was happy, safe in the knowledge that there’d come a time when we’d see better days. Premier League days.